Rail fares to rise by 3.8% in March next year

RAIL fares will be hiked by 3.8% in March, the Department of Transport has confirmed.

Commuters are facing the biggest increase to train fares in a decade.

The price rises will heap more misery on commuters who cannot drive or walk to work.

Laura Suter, head of personal finance at AJ Bell, said: "Commuters already pay through the nose for some routes and this will add to the cost burden for many."

Following the increase, an annual commute from Oxford to London including a London travelcard will increase by £245 to £6,700.

A yearly ticket from Tunbridge Well to London including travel card will rise by more than £220 to £6,033.

And the commute from Macclesfield to Manchester will leap by £84 to £2,284 a year.

Rail minister Chris Heaton-Harris said that the increase was a "fair balance".

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The rise has been tied to the July retail price index, which is lower than the most recent inflation figures of 5.1%.

Heaton-Harris said it would ensure "we can continue to invest record amounts into a more modern, reliable railway, ease the burden on taxpayers and protect passengers from the highest RPI in years".

But the latest rise comes as inflation has risen to its highest level in a decade.

Struggling households are already having to cope with rising energy bills and petrol prices.

Many have also found it difficult to readjust to commuting costs after returning to the office following months of working from home during the pandemic.

Rail fares already went up by 2.6% in March this year.

The increase saw the average commuter's annual costs rise to £3,144.

Labour said it equated to a 43% increase – or £950 – over the past decade.

Suter said: "The rise comes at a time when the majority of workers are already facing a double-whammy of higher National Insurance and frozen income tax rate bands, both of which eat away at take home pay.

“Already everyone’s bills are rising and increasing interest rates are hiking the cost of mortgage and debt – many families will feel like this is another increase in costs they can’t afford."

Why are rail fares going up?

Rail fares are regulated by the government.

Typically, each year the government uses the July Retail Price Index (RPI) measure of inflation to work out how much ticket prices will go up.

The increase is capped at RPI plus 1%.

RPI in July this year was 3.8% so that means the Department for Transport could have hiked prices by as much as 4.8% under that cap.

Not all fares will increase and the price changes will vary across regions and rail operators.

Suter said: "Commuters have at least been spared an even higher increase – as last year the Government added an extra 1 percentage point onto fare rises in order to claw back money lost during the pandemic, when passenger numbers plummeted.

"What’s more, with RPI inflation currently sitting at 7.1% commuters should be braced for a record-breaking rise the following year that will make this one seem reasonable.”

Historically price rises have taken effect in January, but the government delayed the increase this year because of the Covid pandemic.

It comes just one day after the Bank of England hiked interest rates for the first time in three years.

Heaton-Harris added: "Delaying the changes until March 2022 offers people the chance to save money by renewing their fares at last year's price.

"That includes the 100,000 people who are already making savings with cheaper and more convenient flexible season tickets.

"We're driving ahead with the reforms in our Plan for Rail, creating a more passenger-focused railway that delivers a truly first-class service for everyone."

How to save money on your train ticket

HERE are some top tips to help you save cash on rail fares.

Split tickets

If you're taking a lengthy train journey then you could save hundreds of pounds by splitting your tickets.

You won't need to change trains and National Rail lets you split your ticket as long as the train calls at the station you buy the tickets for.

One site that works this out for you is Splitticketing.co.uk.

Buy a season ticket

Regular travellers should be able to save by purchasing either a seven day, monthly or annual season ticket, which will allow them to make the journey an unlimited number of times as long as it's valid.

If you're making the same journey on three or more days a week, then a seven-day season ticket is likely to save you money, compared to buying a new one every day.

You can check to see if a season ticket will save you money on your trip with National Rail's season ticket calculator.

Consider Carnet tickets for London travel

If you often travel back and forth to London on the train but you don't go regularly enough to buy season ticket, you might save with a Carnet ticket.

This gives you ten single journeys to or from London for the price of nine.

Tickets are valid for three months and you can buy books of peak (anytime) or off-peak tickets.

Book at least 12 weeks in advance

Network Rail releases its timetable 12 weeks in advance, so ticket firms usually make their fares available at this time.

Just like plane tickets, the earlier you book the lower the price you'll pay for your seat.

You can sign up to the Trainline's ticket alert service and it will tell you when cheap advance tickets go on sale for a particular journey.

Also, the National Rail's future travel chart shows the furthest advance date that you can buy tickets.

Save money with a Railcard

If you're a regular traveller then a railcard should shave a third off the price of your ticket.

Just make sure you'll make more in savings over a year than the price of the Railcard. See Railcard.co.uk for more information.

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